I’ve read several posts regarding perfumes and fragrances in the workplace. As far as I can tell, adopting a (reasonably) fragrance free environment is at the company’s discretion.
Question: I work with a woman who I have discovered is having an affair with my husband and assisted him in moving out of my house. I have filed divorce papers and he is hiding and living with her. She is making my work life horrible as well. We sit on the same team and she undermines and questions all my actions. What can I do?
I was wondering what to do about my boss’s daughter. I have been here two years and was hired 2 months prior to her but she gets all the recognition for everything. My boss (her father) talks to customers and friends about how she handles his biggest account in the business and she is only 20 years old. However, she needs everyone’s help since she doesn’t know how to do it herself without messing up.
Question: I have a staff member (Lets call her Darla) who seems to be on a roller coaster of emotions. Lately it seems like she’s had an attitude when coming in to work. Specifically, I posted a reminder announcement on our bulletin board about making sure to do these set tasks for your shift. She took it personally and made this “ugh are you kidding me?” remark. Other staff members have been forgetting to carry out these tasks as well so i wasn’t singling out Darla. Some staff have been forgetting and I felt it’s not fair not to address it when others are doing the job just fine.
Question: I’m 29 years old, in a long term relationship. My supervisor is a few years older than me, also in a relationship. We’ve worked together for quite a while now. Over time, after working directly with him on my shift, and slowly getting to know him, I’ve found myself caring about him more than I would normally care. Also, I found myself slowly attracted to him because we share many similar interests and get along well. I noticed my feelings for him after realizing I blush around him and get shy.
A question to Ask The Workplace Doctors
about being falsely accused at work.
What do you do when a disgruntled employee makes a very serious false claim/lie about you to IR which in turn communicates to HR and EEC officer?
Response: I may not have all of the initials in your question translated correctly, but I think my suggestions will be helpful anyway.
Apparently you are a supervisor or manager and an employee complained to a your state’s Industrial Relations Board, about something you said or did, that he or she considered to be mistreatment, unfairness or unethical or biased behavior.
The IR Board reported the matter to your organization’s Human Resource section. I think an EEC officer would refer to ethics but might be equal employment. The bottom line is that an employee has made a serious allegation about you and you are worried about the outcome and want to know what to do about it.
1. One thing that will help you throughout this process is to keep your composure about the situation and do not talk about it to anyone other than the people responsible for investigating it or someone you have asked for assistance about it.
Don’t talk to other employees or even to fellow supervisors, except to say that you are sorry for the conflict and you are cooperating fully with the investigation. If you express anger or make negative comments about the employee or the process, those can be repeated and you will have an even more difficult time. Or, you will try to explain what actually took place and that can be repeated with a twist. If you have already talked about, just back-off now and don’t let others get you going again.
It may be that there will be no formal investigation, because HR has other facts to go on. But, my experience has been that if someone makes an untrue allegation, it is valuable to have it investigated thoroughly, to get the truth out in the open. It is one way to hold people accountable for their false accusations.
2. Having said that, I should also note that if you did, in fact, say or do something, even inadvertently, that would be a violation of policy or procedure or that appears to be problematic, you might as well acknowledge it, give your viewpoint about it, apologize, say that it won’t happen again and count on your good work history to assist you. It would have to be a very, very severe violation to merit dismissal, so probably even if you were in error, you would not receive a major sanction.
3. Whether there is no truth to any of the allegations or a bit of truth, but not as bad as alleged, just follow the instructions you receive from any organizational unit who is investigating the matter. If you are asked for a statement or interviewed, respond readily and courteously. Your attitude and behavior during the investigation will be noted and probably at least casually reported.
4. If the complaint is about something you allegedly said, write the actual dialogue as nearly as you can remember it, word for word. Next to the sentences spoken by each of you, write a note to describe the tone of voice or facial expression, if that would make a difference in how the sentence is interpreted. In that way, you will have the exact words in writing, without having to try to repeat them exactly the same way when you may be more nervous about it.
List every witness to the event and where they were standing, as a way to differentiate between those who only saw the aftermath, but didn’t hear your words or the words of the other person.
5. If the complaint is about something you did administratively or related to job directions, promotions, assignments, days off or other employment situations, document everything you did. Make copies of files or reports, take a photo of an area, as a way to show it more clearly to anyone who talks to you about it.
If the complaint involved some aspect of using machinery or being trained about it, use your phone to video the machine in operation. For example, a supervisor videoed a loading dock as a way to show a complaint board the kind of noise he was dealing with and why he yelled loudly at an employee. It was very effective and he was cleared of wrongdoing.
6. You can see by #3, #4 and #5, that I’m suggesting that you assist the person who is going to investigate this matter, if there is going to be an investigation. If you are a supervisor, demonstrate to them that you are not angry at them or the system, because you understand their role and yours.
7. Talk to your manager, if that is comfortable for you to do, given the work environment or culture of the organization, and ask for his suggestions. He may have experience with the same thing and can talk to you about what to expect next.
8. Focus on your own good work. If there is some aspect of the situation that you would do differently, if you had it to do over again, put those better habits into practice now. Quite often, in some work environments more than others, the culture becomes one of “We get the work done and sometimes we have to talk tough to do it.” Or, “I have a job to do and I can’t always make everyone happy.” Those may be true statements, but they are often used to excuse rudeness or unnecessarily riding roughshod over employee. Or, they are used to excuse a lack of compassion or a lack of fairness.
If you are already doing an excellent job of supervision, just keep at it. The employee who complained about you may still feel anger toward you or he may wish he hadn’t made the complaint. Either way, you are still responsible for his well-being. Treat him with respect and civility and show him and others that you can move forward and past this.
Best wishes to you as this unfolds. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what develops.
Ask the Workplace Doctors
A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors
about being threatened at work.
What can I do when my boss’s husband threatened me, saying “When you finish work, meet me outside.” And, “You don’t know who you’re messing with”?
It is certainly wrong for the husband or wife of an employee at any level, to get involved with work situations, even if they feel their spouse is being treated badly by someone at work. Most bosses or employees don’t like it either. What you do in your situation will depend upon whether or not your boss has a boss above her or if she owns the business—and if the husband works there too.
1. First talk to your boss and let her know what her husband told you, if she doesn’t know it already. Tell her that although you may have a conflict with her or with the work, you don’t want to risk being harmed or having her husband get in trouble with the police, by having her husband take on the fight for her, forcing you to defend yourself.
It doesn’t sound as though the two things he told you would be considered a threat under the law, but she may fear that you will call the police and will take action on her own to tell her husband to mind his own business and stay out of hers. She may (and should) also fear that a fight of some kind could result in serious harm to one or both of you. Even pushes and shoves can be deadly.
2. If it seems your boss doesn’t intend to try to stop her husband or doesn’t take your concerns seriously, go the person higher than her—or several levels higher if necessary. Even if someone is sympathetic to the husband, they will hopefully have enough wisdom to direct your boss to tell him to stay away from the property or stop talking to you and to not cause further trouble.
3. If you have a witness to the statements he made to you and you can show that he has harmed others in the past or is very likely to carry out his threats, you would be more likely to be able to contact the police and say you feel threatened. But generally, statements have to threaten something specific. For example, “Meet me outside and I’m going to use this knife.” Or, “You don’t know who you’re messing with. I’ve broken legs before and I can do it again.”
I don’t use those examples to frighten you, but rather, to show you the specific nature of a threat, in most jurisdictions.
4. If you think none of this will help, you may need to find another place to work, where you will be more safe. That may be what your boss is after—or she may not want you to quit and will be jolted enough at the thought that she would talk to her husband. Her husband might realize how his bragging threats have created more trouble than he intended and he would shut up and learn a good lesson.
5. However, don’t lose sight of the original problem. Why did your boss’s husband think things were so bad that he needed to threaten you to make you change your behavior? It could be that he is mentally ill or has anger management issues and he is upset for little or no justifiable reason. But, when a spouse of a boss makes a threat, it usually reflects something the boss has talked about. So, consider your own situation too and resolve to be courteous and cooperative and to communicate in a civil way with your boss and others.
Quite often employees get into a habit of treating people at work badly, because they have done it before and nothing has happened to them. They let their negative feelings show and make work miserable for many people around them, especially for the boss. I don’t know your situation, but maybe the threats by your boss’s husband should be a wake-up call to you, to alert you to a pattern of behavior that you have gotten into, without realizing it.
If you have friends at work, ask them how you might be viewed by others. Ask them if they think there are some things you can do to improve your relationship with your boss. Focus on your work and on following instructions about it. Be a contributing part of the team. That may be all that is necessary to stop the unwanted interference of the boss’s husband. He is wrong to do it, but it may be easy to stop.
6. Let me reiterate that if you believe you or your property may be harmed, you should report it to the police. Tell them exactly what was said and when. Don’t go back to work if you think harm will happen to you there. I think you can handle this on your own, but I don’t know all of the circumstances and I don’t want you to put yourself in harm’s way unnecessarily.
7. Your immediate actions should be pay attention to what is going on around you. Have your car keys ready. When you leave work, walk with someone. If you see the husband hanging around, ask someone to walk out with you or call the police and ask them to stand-by to assist you if needed. In most police jurisdictions, officers can provide that kind of service.
At your home, keep your doors locked and do not open them to the husband if he shows up. Alert your family as well. Even it seems a bit excessive, it’s a safe way to live anyway.
Best wishes to you as you work through this situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what develops and what solutions you find.
Tina Lewis Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors
A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about feeling pushed out at work.
I work with a boss who doesn’t put boundaries in place for us. He also never holds meetings. As a result, colleagues often wade into work that I am doing. This frustrates me.
Additionally, boss doesn’t correct meanness when it is evident; i.e. mean comments from colleagues directed towards me. When I bring these things up to boss, boss listens and acts as if he’s going to address it but it just makes things worse for me.
I feel like I am not seen as credible by my colleagues and often contemplate leaving for something new. I feel invisible, unheard and often like I’m the problem-child.
I’ve sought out counseling, but I don’t feel like it’s working. Any other suggestions?
You say you went to counseling, but you don’t feel that the advice you received is working for you. Please don’t give up on counseling or the counselor. It could take a while for you to fully express some of your feelings or to fully share some of your experiences. At some point you may decide another counselor might be more effective for you–but unless there is an strong need to change counselors, stick with this one for a while longer.
The best counselors focus on helping you find most of your solutions. But, when they make suggestions, the advice often needs to be adjusted, just as medical prescriptions often are adjusted, based on results. Tell your counselor what is and isn’t working and what results you have seen, and perhaps that will lead to some different perceptions by both you and the counselor.
2. Even if you have done so already, do some problem analysis about your situation. Take it apart and see if from various perspectives. If you can identify a time when things were good at work and when you felt positive about your relationships there, think about when that was, what was happening on a daily basis and what is the same or has changed.
•Ask yourself if you can reasonably expect another change in the near future. Is it likely your manager will move to another assignment? Are some of your coworkers likely to leave? Is the layout of the office going to stay the same or change in some way? Is there going to be a lasting change in some aspect of the work or the way in which you and others must interact to get it done? Thinking about that will let you make a better decision about your future plans.
•Consider if any of your coworkers are congenial—or do all of them treat you in a way you find to be hurtful or negative. Ask yourself if you are the only one to whom they make the mean comments you mentioned or do some others get treated in the same way. If several of you are having the same experiences, perhaps you can connect with each other and focus on supporting each other as well as on making your combined voices heard.
•You didn’t say how many coworkers you have or if there are other offices in addition to yours. Perhaps you can establish a supportive relationship with an effective employee in another area of the work.
•Make a list of a few of the mean or hurtful things coworkers have said to you in the last two weeks, so you can share specifics with your counselor or discuss them specifically with your supervisor. Are the remarks about your work product? Are they truthful critiques or lies? Are the remarks about your appearance? About your ethnicity or gender? About something in your personal life? About something you’ve said related to work or about something you’ve said regarding away-from work issues? Are they said in a spontaneous way as things happen or do one or more employees seem to purposely come to your work area to attack you verbally?
•Consider how you have responded when something hurtful has been said. Have you countered with your reasons for the actions they were criticizing? Have you ever told anyone that their remarks make you feel unhappy or stressful?
•On the other hand, do you often have something positive to say to others? Could you cite daily examples of a smiling expression, an offer to help or a supportive comment? Is it possible others see you as unfriendly or are they being mean to you in spite of your actions?
•How do you think your colleagues feel about themselves and others? Is everyone unhappy about the situation there or does it seem most of them feel positive and only you feel so badly?
All of those thoughts are ways to help you be able to clearly and concisely describe your workplace and the behaviors by coworkers that are having an effect on your attitudes and feelings.
3. You mentioned that colleagues wade into work that you are doing. Consider why that is happening. Most computer-based work is clearly the responsibility of one person. Other work can be marked in some way to let others know where you stopped and what else needs to be done. I don’t know your work situation, but it would be odd if an employee voluntarily did much more than what they are supposed to do, just to irritate a co-worker.
So, think through that one and see what you think their logical reason is for doing your work in addition to their own. Perhaps you can determine a way to designate assigned work more effectively. If your boss isn’t concerned about it, perhaps it doesn’t matter who is doing a task as long as it gets done. Find out more and think through whether usurping your work is being done spitefully, helpfully, because it’s been assigned or because there is confusion about who is responsible.
4. You imply that you have talked to the manager about the situation. Your best approach is to put it in writing so there is documentation of what you have tried to accomplish. Be very accurate as you report what was said or what occurred. When possible, use a dialogue approach to state the precise words used by each person and by yourself. Also describe the tone of voice, facial expression or anything else that can add to the description.
•You said your boss listens but just makes things worse for you. Does she make an effort to intervene or do you think she purposely makes things worse for you by encouraging people to continue to treat you badly? It is important to know that, in case you feel you should go to your company’s HR section or a higher manager, if there is one.
•Consider asking your boss to help you in specific ways and also to give you some quick coaching advice. She’s heard what you’ve said is going on. Now, ask her for some specific assistance, rather than just asking for help generally. Then, ask her for specific suggestions for what you ought to do instead of what you are now doing, to bring about improvement.. For example, “I’d like for you to tell Mary to stop laughing with Jan, every time I pass their desks to go to the copy room. I’d also like you to tell those two to stop mimicking me when I’m on the phone. Both of those things are distracting to everyone’s work, including to me. Will you do that? Also, I’d like to know what you want me to do if you’ve talked to them but they do it anyway. What would you suggest?”
•As I mentioned earlier, if you put that in an email and your manager responds in an email, you’ll have clear documentation of your efforts—and, just as importantly, your boss will have something specific to do, rather than just hearing a vague complaint and a request for her to make things right. The reality is the most bosses hate to be involved in workplace conflict. They avoid it when possible and shrug it off or only half-halfheartedly do something, the rest of the time. Often, they think both sides are to blame, but don’t want to say that, so they give out a vague promise but don’t do much more than gently ask both sides to get along better. That reality is why conflict in some workplaces goes on year after year.
5. Look at this from your manager’s perspective. You think she should set boundaries and have regular meetings. But, she knows that most employees complain about meetings, don’t want to attend them and act hostile to managers who call the meetings. I don’t agree with that thinking, but that’s the way it is. So, there is no incentive for your boss to do it. There is especially no incentive if she thinks she will be expected to bring up problems and confront people or the group. Perhaps you can suggest a meeting time and also suggest things to commend or plans for new project to discuss. Taking that leadership role would also offset what seems to you to be your role as a problem employee.
6. Does your boss own the business or lead the entire organization? If not, there are probably other layers above him or her. Is there anyone else in the company with whom you could discuss the situation? HR’s function is to ensure the best use of human resources, so there may be someone there who would provide you with some insights or advice.
7. You say you don’t feel credible and that you feel like you are seen as a problem child. Credibility requires that you are seen as being effective in your overall performance and in your behavior—and your responses to the behaviors of others. About 98% of the time we should be buzzing along without a need for supervisory help or intervention, unless we have a new project that requires extra coaching. There will be situations that are irritating, frustrating and even hurtful, but an effective employee will work through those and continue to be effective.
8. I’m certainly not advising you to quit your job. However, if you have a marketable skill and think you could find a place where the environment would be more congenial and supportive, that may be your best solution. It would be one way to cut ties with a place that you feel is dragging you down. At the same time, it would give you a chance to make changes in your own behavior or performance, if you think you have made mistakes in your handling of situations in your current workplace. Most importantly, it will be give you a chance to interact with new people and new styles of work and gain the credibility you feel you lack right now.
9. The bottom line is that at a distance I don’t know any of the particulars about your work or your personality, age, tenure, education and communication skills in comparison to those of your colleagues. Those will all have an effect on what you do and how you do it. However, you really have only three options: (1.) Stay there and let the same things keep happening, hoping for a change in the future. (2.) Stay there and purposefully become part of the office in a positive way. Engage more with everyone and demonstrate an undeniably strong level of work and behavior. At the same time, realize that you are being paid for your own work product and your own behavior, not anyone else’s. Just do it and try to shut out the distractions. (3.) Do as Dr. Gorden often suggests, and vote with your feet by leaving and finding a better workplace.
Before you do the last thing, you should do the second thing long enough to see if it can work for you. In addition to your counselor, you have family and friends, maybe former coworkers or others who know you and can give you truthful input. Work at it and see if things change for the better, even if just incrementally. After a few more months you can say you gave it your best. At that point, you can decide whether to move on or stay, but at least you will have done all you can do.
Best wishes to you with all of this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how things are developing and what results you are getting.
Tina Lewis Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors